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In the past weeks the Middle East has once again become a hot topic in the news as thousands of citizens in countries across this region raise up in protest against their leaders, largely dictatorships, who have ruled over them largely without question for many years. The extent of the violence at these protests makes our student protests in the past few months look like hippie gatherings.
For example in one of the most recent region to suffer from mass conflict, Libya, protesters are fighting to get rid of Colonel Gaddafi who has led the country since a coup in 1969. In a recent interview with Western news coverage Gaddafi laughably insisted, “all my people love me” and would die to protect him, but it is now clear that Mr. Gaddafi must be blind or incredibly disillusioned about the struggles in his own country (or believes we’re naïve enough to buy that). As Gaddafi clings to his position of power, claiming he cannot resign due to not having any official title, he sends troops and fighter pilots upon his people to shoot them down in cold blood.
This picture is disgusting enough but is made worse by the fact that our university, with the money we gave them for our degree, is investing in arms trades companies, such as BAE, that are selling the guns and other military equipment to these countries. BAE Systems are the world’s largest arms manufacturer and in February of this year, despite the unrest, were selling crowd control weapons at the Abu Dhabi arms fair. Without a doubt these products have already been used in countries across the Middle East, such as Libya.
In 2008 Lancaster University invested £15.996 in BAE Systems (who in the year after had 95% of their products being military related) as well as over another £40,000 invested in other companies linked with the arms trade. This made the investments in arms trade that year 1.3% of all investments by the university.
Although BAE Systems is the only company directly involved with the production of guns and other such equipment, as opposed to merely military vehicles, I strongly believe that even one penny is too much of an investment for our university to be giving to arms trade companies, especially if I know that in some ways I can consider that to be my money.
Not only do we invest in BAE but also our Management school is also funded by them and even has a postgraduate programme that works with the company. Although Lancaster is by no means the only university with investments in these types of companies our close involvement with BAE Systems; a company that sells weapons indiscriminately across the globe, is, for me, incredibly worrying.
I personally hate to imagine that the weapons that are currently being used across the Middle East to suppress and massacre populations, that have every right to be infuriated by their governments, can be any way related to me. But it seems that through no fault of my own they are.
Surely our university has enough resources to find investments in other companies more ethically justifiable than the arms trade. And if not should the students at least not have some say in where their money is going? With the tuition fees on the raise this becomes even more of an issue. If I were paying £9.000 per year not only would I want to make sure I got my money’s worth out of the university academically but also know that my money was being invested with companies that at least do not disturb my sense of morality. How can they possibly justify such a close relationship between a place of education and a company centralised around objects of violence?
The answer of course is revenue, hard dirty cash. But yet again I stress the point that the university has many other sources of income and we do not need to be in any way linked to these companies, nor does any other university. I think it is vital for the Lancaster University to sever it’s ties to this despicable company and find somewhere to put their investments that is more suited to a place of education, somewhere that will not trouble the minds of those that are ethically opposed to the manufacture of weapons.
Over the past few years there have been multiple campaigns at the university to stop any further investments in BAE Systems. As far as I am aware these have all failed to have an impact but this year myself and others will try once more to bring a stop to this questionable relationship. Almost everyone I have discussed this matter with so far have voiced the same disgust at the matter I feel and I believe if the word is spread across campus and enough people are as moved by this matter as I am we can begin to shake the university into realisation that we want some say in where our money is going.